Five Must-Have Tools for Small Businesses

As any small business owner can tell you, small businesses need every advantage they can get. If there’s a tool out there that can reduce workload, fine-tune efficiency, automate tedious or time-consuming tasks, or otherwise make running a small business easier, you want to know about it. With that in mind, here are five tools no small business owner should be without in 2021.

Business Phone System: Nextiva

Nextiva combines business phone, video conferencing, collaboration, and customer management, all under one unified platform. With Nextiva, businesses can handle their internal and external communications, track business analytics, and even maintain customer relationships, without the need for multiple software suites.

Like many services of its kind, Nextiva offers tiered services, with the higher tiers offering more in the way of features. The basic subscription will offer users unlimited US calling with all the traditional call controls, but not much more.

The Essential plan, at $34.95 a month per user, offers voicemail notifications, contact integration, unlimited virtual faxing, and round-the-clock tech support. Tiers range up to the Enterprise level at $44.95 a month per user, which includes integration with Amazon Chime and Oracle Sales Cloud, CRM integration, and more mobile app features than the lower pricing plans.

Accounting Software: Freshbooks

Every business owner needs a way to track income and expenses, and the more convenient the better. Freshbooks originally created for freelancers, has plenty to offer a growing business looking to make handling finances easier.

Freshbooks not only handles expense tracking, but lets you invoice clients, track time, manage a project, produce reports, send payment reminders, and more — all with an eye toward getting things done fast. Many operations can be performed with just a few clicks. There are also team features to make it easier to coordinate with business partners, employees, contractors, and accountants.

There are multiple plans available from Freshbooks, ranging from the Lite plan at $13.50 a month, to a premium plan at $45 a month, to customized plans tailored just for you and your needs. The Lite version is enough for a freelancer or sole proprietor, while companies with up to 500 clients should consider springing for Premium.

Remote Working: ProofHub

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are choosing to work from home — which makes robust remote management of projects more important than ever. That’s where ProofHub can come in handy.

ProofHub has everything you’d expect from an online project management app: Gantt charts, Kanban boards, task management, custom workflows and user roles, and more. Proofhub is focused on clean, simple, intuitive project management, meaning there are no invoicing or financial features, making Freshbooks a good companion choice for this software.

There’s a free plan for ProofHub, which can be acquired by sending a request to support@proofhub.com. The paid plans offer a flat monthly or annual fee for unlimited users — a big plus for budget-minded business owners.

Customer Service Software: Zendesk

What’s one of the biggest keys to success in business? Satisfied customers. That’s why a strong customer service solution is a must for anyone who wants to stay in business for long.

Zendesk, an all-in-one customer service software platform with a broad array of features, has been shown to increase customer satisfaction by up to 25% — one of the reasons it’s an industry leading solution to customer service issues.

Zendesk offers options to handle customer support and ticketing through email, mobile, social media, or live chat, with analytics to improve efficiency and increase sales conversion. The cloud-based service allows for agents to create a workflow to track ticket status from opening to completion — so nothing gets lost and customers don’t end up unhappy. The software also offers features for automating common tasks, leaving your customer service agents free to get the real work done.

Public Relations & Social Media Management: Meltwater

Just as social media has become a vital part of managing your business, a unified, all-in-one solution has become a vital part of managing and automating your social media presence. Meltwater offers a powerful solution for managing your online reputation, engaging with potential customers, and building up a following for your business. There are even features for finding other influencers whose content aligns with yours, so you can build partnerships and work with others to broaden your audience.

With Meltwater, you can do more than just manage your social media. The software aims to extract insight from billions of online conversations so that small business owners can use them to drive brand perception, track the competition, and find new ways to grow their business.

Features include automated content scheduling, marketing analytics, tracking of online discussions and trends, and more. Founded in 2001, Meltwater was the first company of its kind and has over 30,000 clients around the world.

Adam Hansen